The Thoracic Surgery Foundation Awards Inaugural International Fellowships

Cardiothoracic surgeons from the US and Italy receive practice-changing funding support

CHICAGO (January 19, 2022)—Through a collaborative effort between The Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) and the European Association for Cardio-Thoracic Surgery (EACTS), two standout young surgeons recently each received $20,000 in fellowship grants to learn new techniques used by institutions across the world.

Amy G. Fiedler, MD, from the University of Wisconsin at Madison (UW-Madison), and Gianluca Folesani, MD, from Sant'Orsola Malpighi Polyclinic in Bologna, Italy, have been recognized as the inaugural recipients of the Thoracic Surgery Foundation (TSF)/Francis Fontan Fund (FFF) International Traveling Fellowship. TSF and FFF are the charitable arms of STS and EACTS, respectively. 

“The way cardiac surgery kind of starts and stops and then moves and tacks is a little different on the two continents,” said TSF President Joseph E. Bavaria, MD. “For example, the regulatory agencies approve different techniques and different devices that we use in cardiac surgery at different rates. So if you want to have exposure to something that is brand new, you may have to go to Europe to do that. Or you may have to come to the United States for that—it goes in both directions.” 

The TSF/FFF Fellowship—established in 2021—will help fund international travel and living expenses, allowing the awardees to continue their education outside of their home countries. This fellowship also will allow Dr. Fiedler and Dr. Folesani to learn novel techniques, adapt innovative technology, and receive training from expert mentors who are dedicated to the highest standards of cardiothoracic surgery. 

With her fellowship, Dr. Fiedler plans to learn skills and administrative approaches that will help her expand the heart transplant program at UW-Madison, where she currently serves as associate director of heart transplantation and mechanical circulatory support. She will study under Stephen Large, MD, MA, FRCS, at Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, England. 

“Professor Large and his team are at the forefront of innovation with respect to nonthermic regional perfusion heart transplantation,” said Dr. Fiedler. “They have managed to increase the volume of heart transplantation at their center by over 30% due to their innovative techniques, which I hope to acquire. I feel honored and privileged to receive the International Traveling Fellowship. I look forward to a fruitful partnership, and I thank TSF, FFF, and the organizations’ generous donors for this incredible opportunity.” 

Dr. Folesani, who is accomplished in performing aortic and mitral valve surgery and myocardial revascularization procedures, intends to use his fellowship to learn minimally invasive techniques on aortic and mitral valves. “I am also fascinated by robotic surgery, and I would love to learn robotic techniques in order to hopefully start a robotic program in my center,” he said. “I am honored to be given the opportunity to be mentored by Professor Joseph Bavaria of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where we will be linking three Philadelphia institutions for a complete robotic experience with three different institutional approaches.”

He plans to receive robotics training at Jefferson University Hospitals in Philadelphia under the mentorship of T. Sloane Guy, MD, MBA, the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia under Pavan Atluri, MD, and Main Line Health’s Lankenau Heart Institute in Wynnewood under Francis P. Sutter, DO. 

“I am absolutely thrilled and feel very privileged to receive the TSF/FFF International Traveling Fellowship,” Dr. Folesani said. “I am a young cardiac surgeon and the award is such a great opportunity to enrich my education by learning from the experts in the field.” 

Each fellow also will have the opportunity to attend one another’s annual meetings—Dr. Folesani to attend STS 2023 in San Diego, and Dr. Fiedler to attend EACTS 2022 in Milan.

Dr. Fiedler and Dr. Folesani were selected from 21 applicants through a rigorous and competitive process. 

“Good preparation is of the essence,” said EACTS Secretary General J. Rafael Sádaba, MD, PhD, FRCS(C-Th). “I would advise applicants to do their homework, choose well what they want to do and where they want to go. They should try to make sure that what they are aiming to achieve is not only for their own benefit, but for the benefit of their center or institution—and for the benefit of the patients that he or she will be treating back home.”

Applications for the 2023 TSF/FFF Fellowship will open this summer. Applicants must be cardiothoracic surgeons who are certified by the American Board of Thoracic Surgery or its equivalent in a country outside of the US and within 7 years of their first faculty appointment.

For more information about the TSF/FFF International Traveling Fellowship and other TSF awards, visit thoracicsurgeryfoundation.org/awards.

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Contact: Priscilla S. Kennedy, TSF Executive Director, pkennedy@sts.org, 312-202-5868.

About STS
Founded in 1964, The Society of Thoracic Surgeons is a not-for-profit organization representing more than 7,700 cardiothoracic surgeons, researchers, and allied health care professionals worldwide who are dedicated to ensuring the best possible outcomes for surgeries of the heart, lung, and esophagus, as well as other surgical procedures within the chest. The Society’s mission is to advance cardiothoracic surgeons’ delivery of the highest quality patient care through collaboration, education, research, and advocacy. For more information, visit sts.org.

About TSF
The Thoracic Surgery Foundation is a pivotal force for growth and vitality in cardiothoracic surgery, especially for research and academic career development, awarding more than $23 million in cardiothoracic surgery research and education grants. The Foundation was first established in 1988 as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit charitable organization and is the charitable arm of The Society of Thoracic Surgeons. The mission of TSF is to foster the development of surgeon scientists in cardiothoracic surgery, increasing knowledge and innovation to benefit patient care. For more information, visit thoracicsurgeryfoundation.org.

About EACTS
The European Association for Cardio-Thoracic Surgery was founded in 1986 as a European organization devoted to the practice of cardiothoracic surgery. Membership has now spread all over the world with 4000 active members including surgeons, perfusionists and allied health professionals. Its mission is to advance education in the field of cardiac, thoracic and vascular interventions and to promote research into cardiovascular and thoracic physiology, pathology and therapy, with the aim to correlate and disseminate the results for the public benefit. For more information, visit eacts.org.

About FFF
The Francis Fontan Fund for Education supports surgical education, fosters professional development, and strengthens the global cardiothoracic community through increased knowledge share. The Fund’s mission is to create a global community sharing and learning from the highest standards of cardiothoracic care. Francis Fontan was a pioneering cardiac surgeon, best known for creating the revolutionary Fontan procedure. Passionate about lifelong learning, Fontan founded EACTS to advance education in the field of cardiothoracic and vascular interventions. The Fund was created in his honor, with the intention of celebrating his dedication to lifelong learning.